Day 80 – That’s More Like It!

Today, I completed Session A of the Beginner Program from Jason Ferruggia’s “Muscle Gaining Secrets 2.0″ program.  Instead of shoveling snow I actually got to devote some time to the weight room this afternoon!  It felt great!!!!

I can honestly say that today’s session was one of the best lifting sessions I’ve had in a few weeks.  Part of it was due to having been away from the weight room for 3 days.  I miss my lifting sessions; they are therapeutic & invigorating.  One day off is difficult enough. 3 days off was sheer torture!  I have a much better appreciation for my lifting sessions as a result.

The other reason that today’s session was so good is because I entered the weight room with a new attitude.  A positive attitude.  An empowered attitude.  A winning mentality.  A certainty that I AM on the way to reaching my fitness goals

If you read yesterday’s blog post, you might be a bit puzzled by all of this.

When I last sounded off, I was a bit disappointed in not being selected as a finalist for the 6-week “mini-transformation” contest.  Actually, a bit disappointed is an understatement.  I was rather upset by the news.  I did my best to handle the situation with some dignity & grace but it was difficult to hide the disappointment.

Not long after updating my blog last evening, something amazing began happening.  A number of fellow body transformation contestants started reaching out to me & offering words of encouragement. I was humbled by the outpouring of support.

They offered up things like: “You should have been a finalist.”, “Glad to know I’m not the only one who is feeling the sting…”, “How were you NOT picked?” & many other similar comments.

Many of these folks are complete strangers.  Yet they took a moment to pat me on the back & lift my spirits.  Wow!

A few of the contestants that reached out to me were not complete strangers.  Although I have not meet these people in person, I have communicated with them in various ways online.  Here’s how:

A component of this transformation contest is the Daily Progress Journal updates at the Early to Rise Transformation Contest site.

(Partial screenshot from the Progress Journal)

(Partial screenshot from the Progress Journal)

Each day I update my progress at this site.  Here’s my 3/26 update:

Screen shot 2013-03-27 at 4.38.13 PM


As you can see above, other contestants have the ability to Like a post as well as Comment on a post.  There is also a feature whereby contestants can mark fellow contestants as “Favorites” & track their progress. (The white star next to my name would be Yellow if I were able to add myself as a Favorite)

It is through liking, commenting & adding favorites that I have been able to communicate with other contestants.

When my “Favorites” began reaching out to me & offering support/encouragement, I really began to feel the love.

It was too long before the following comment showed up in my email:

Screen shot 2013-03-27 at 5.02.17 PM

When I saw this comment was from a “Favorite”, my eyes lit up & I cracked a big smile.  So, I decided to track back & see who left me the comment.  I wished to thank them personally for the kind words.

When I landed on her profile, that’s when it hit me – She’s a 6 week, mini-contest finalist!  How cool is this!?!?!  You better believe she got my vote!

There I was, moping about not being selected when someone I’ve interacted with over the last few weeks was being honored.  That totally turned things around for me.  Instead of feeling down, I felt great joy.

I went to bed last night feeling a million times better after receiving so much positive feedback from so many people.

Then this morning I had the following message from the “finalist” waiting for me:

Screen shot 2013-03-27 at 5.03.57 PM


It took all I had not to tear up when I read this comment but I definitely felt the lump in my throat.  Those words gave me a jolt of positive energy.  They put a smile on my face.  They put a spring in my step.  They validated that the hard work over the last few months has been worth it.

I walked out of the house today with a completely new attitude, thanks in large part to comments like the one above.  Everyone who commented had a part in this new attitude.

I carried that attitude with me into the weight room today.

I also realized that I’m not just doing this for me.  I’m doing this so that those who are following my progress will be better off for having done so.

Maybe it is a blog post that gives them a spark?  Maybe it is a new lift that helps them bust through a plateau?  Maybe it is a dietary tip that helps them lose some fat?  Or maybe it is just a kind word that keeps them from quitting?

I honestly don’t what it will be that helps someone else achieve their goals.

What I do know is that I am making a positive impact on those who I interact with.  That’s an awesome feeling!

Day 79 – Round 3

Today was a scheduled lifting day.  I was supposed to complete Session A, Beginner Program from Jason Ferruggia’s “Muscle Gaining Secrets 2.0”.    

However, when I arrived home, I remembered that the sidewalks around my house needed shoveled.  Why not make it 3 days in a row?

So, I grabbed the shovel & spent the next 1/2 hour moving a pretty good amount of snow.  By the time I was done, I was sweating something fierce!

I was also feeling rather fatigued.  Just as fatigued as if I had been working in the weight room, if not more.  I really didn’t want to scrap tonight’s lifting session but I didn’t see much of a point in even attempting it.  Here’s why:

  • My legs are more worn out than normal.
  • My back is a bit tender.
  • My arms & shoulders have a little more ache to them than normal.

I figure I can avoid injury if I give myself a little extra recovery time.  At any rate, I’ve logged in about 5-6 hours worth of shoveling over the last 48 hours so I think I’ve done plenty in terms of physical activity!

However, I’m less than 2 weeks away from taking my final pictures for this contest so I would rather have been in the weight room the last few days.  The last few days of my contest period are already goofed up due to a prior commitment so I really only have 9 “quality” days left to get in the best shape possible.

I’m beginning to think that the light at the end of the tunnel is a freight train heading my way.


I’m starting to wonder about my chances of winning the 90 Day Early to Rise Transformation contest.  My mindset for the last 79 days has been Winner, Winner, Winner.

However, the 6-week mini-contest finalists were announced today & I didn’t make the cut in the Health category.  After reading the essays selected for the contest, I’m not sure where I went wrong with my submission.

I’m not taking anything away from the finalists; they are to be commended for their efforts & results.  However, I thought I did a very good job of presenting my 6 week progress.  If losing a few pounds of fat, gaining 6 pounds of muscle, starting a blog & helping others begin their fitness journey in the first 6 weeks wasn’t good enough then I guess it wasn’t good enough.

I hope I am not coming off like a whiner but I’m puzzled by the fact that I wasn’t selected as a finalist for the 6 week mini-contest.

Now I wonder if I even have a shot at the finals?

My fear is that the winners of the health category are going to be like the contestants from NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”.  I don’t watch the show but I’ve noticed a common theme: The winners start off as obese individuals that experience a significant weight loss.

However, I don’t fall into that category.  The “heaviest” I have even been is around 170 pounds at 20% body fat.  Right now I tend to weigh in the mid/upper 150’s at 7-8% body fat.

While most people are attempting to “lose weight”, I am attempting to gain muscle mass.  This is a very difficult task for me for a number of reasons:

  • I’m not a big eater.  Getting down close to 3,000 clean calories on lifting days is a chore.  Sure, I could get 3000 calories in by eating fast food but why would I do that?
  • I’ve never really been a big guy – blame it on genetics.
  • My age (39 on Saturday-where has the time gone??) isn’t helping things either.

But you know what, I won’t let these things stop me from pushing on.  Nope.  I will keep plugging away.  I’m a winner & winners don’t quit.  Ever.

You know what else?  No one can ever take this away from me:

Front View April 2012-Nov2012




I busted my ass in the weight room, ate well & transformed myself inside & out in 6 months. I earned that body & did things I never thought possible.  Unfortunately, my transformation wasn’t good enough for inclusion in my personal trainer’s soon to be released book. Although I wasn’t a “winner” I still came away from the experience a better person.

It is beginning to feel like this contest is going to end up the same way.  If it does, it does.  I’m still going to walk away from the contest a better person than when I started.

Anyway, I’m going to step away from the keyboard & take some time to process the fact that my best efforts have fallen short for the time being.  I will admit to be a bit disappointed when I first realized I wasn’t a 6-week contest finalist.

But, it isn’t what happens to us in life that defines us, it is what we do in response to what happens that does.

So, I congratulate the 6 week contest finalists.  It takes guts to step outside your comfort zone & go after a goal.  It takes even more guts to put it out there for strangers.  I really do commend them for their efforts & results.

With that being said, they need to keep it up & had better not slack.  I intend to put forth the best effort I can muster for the remainder of my contest period.  I am locked in.

Maybe I won’t win the contest.  The light at the end of the tunnel may be a freight train heading my way.  But that train won’t run me over.  I’m too strong for that.  Knock me down, I’ll just get back up again.  I’ll wipe away the dust & tears & will be right back after it again in no time.  Because you see, it isn’t what happens to me that defines who I am, it is how I respond to it that defines me.  My response reveals my true character.  I feel pretty good about that.


Day 78 – Snow Day!

Today was supposed to be a lifting day.  Things did not go as planned though.  Last evening, I spent over 2 hours shoveling snow from our driveway.  I put in another couple of hours this morning clearing the driveway & back deck.  In all, we got about 18 inches of snow.




I got in a decent amount of weight lifting in the last 24 hours so I didn’t feel guilty taking the day “off”.  I did hundreds of squats & deadlifts when you consider how much snow I moved!

Besides, my lifting schedule can be modified to allow for 4 weight lifting sessions over the next 6 days so I’m not worried about “missing” as lifting session today.

Yes, I could have completed my scheduled lifting session today but at what cost?

I was already a little sore when I woke up this morning.  I was also fatigued after the shoveling session from this morning.  Had I attempted to get in a 45 minute lifting session, the results most likely would have been less than stellar.  I figured I would be doing myself more harm than good if I lifted weights so I followed my own advice & left the weights alone.

One thing I am thankful for is having the strength & stamina to be able to perform snow removal.  At one time I would have had trouble getting the job done.  Not any longer.

Day 77 – That’s Real Funny…

Today is an off day from the weight room.

2 weeks to go before my “After” pictures need to be taken; this will probably be the last “off” day for the next few weeks.

2 more weeks

Today’s weigh-in was interesting.  I was up 2.4 pounds from last week.  The majority was muscle gain but a little bit was fat.  I found this funny considering I shifted to more a fat burning mode this week.  My scale is a real comedian!!

Here are a few of the changes I have incorporated:

  • I ate less food this week when compared to previous weeks.  I kept my caloric intake fairly steady on weight-lifting days.  On non-lifting days, I reduced my caloric intake by around 500+ calories.  I also limited my carbs to green veggies only on these days.
  • I added in Tabata-style cardio sessions this week.  Short sessions post weight-lifting, longer sessions on non-lifting days.
  • I even added in a fat-burning supplement that I used in the past to get “photo-ready”.

Despite my best efforts, I somehow managed to add a decent amount of weight this week. I’m not complaining about the muscle gain.  The little bit of fat gain is a bit problematic.  I am attempting to get shredded for my final pictures.  Now is not the time to be adding ANY additional fat!

So now I’m left scratching my head wondering what exactly happened this week.  How did I gain weight when I was attempting to do the opposite?

No need to worry about it.  I know I’m on the right path.  This is just a slight bump in the road.

The plan is to give the next 2 weeks the best effort I can possibly muster.  Will it be enough to put me over the top & into contention for the top prize?  I’d like to think so but I really don’t know.  If my transformation is deemed worthy of winning a prize, so be it.  If it isn’t, it isn’t.

My guess is that there are a number of contestants who will have similar, if not better, body transformations.  That’s the reality of the situation.  I’ve participated in these types of endeavors in the past & came up short each time.  But that didn’t deter me from getting involved in this contest.  If anything, it inspired me to get involved in this contest.

Should I not be deemed a “contest winner”, so what?  In the last 11 weeks, I have done the following:

  • Gained muscle & burned fat – Hello??  That’s progress baby!
  • Created over 80 blog posts (with plenty more to come) – I’d like to be an author someday.  Blogging has helped me begin to find my writing “voice” & hone my writing skills.
  • Helped friends & family get on track with their fitness – Talk about rewarding!
  • Inspired others to take their fitness goals seriously – Once again, very rewarding!
  • Regained my self-confidence – This has bled over from the weight room & into nearly every other area of my life.  I have experienced some very big victories on a personal & professional level recently.  I attribute those victories to the self-confidence I now possess.
  • Rediscovered the joys of discipline – Ok, this one sounds weird at first.  Discipline being joyful?  Yep.  Here’s an example:  Each time I have the discipline to pass up a donut at work gives me the immediate gratification of knowing I did the right thing.  That, in turn, makes is easier to turn the donut down again later in the day.  When I get into the weight room, I don’t have to work an extra 5-10 minutes to burn off the donut that I could’ve eaten.  More importantly, I don’t have the guilt associated with eating something that won’t help me achieve my goal.  Sure, I goof up every now & then but for the most part I am able to maintain my discipline when it comes to situations like this.
  • Look better & feel better – Gotta love that!
  • Many other benefits I haven’t even realized yet

So you see, even if I am not deemed a “contest winner”, it doesn’t mean that my efforts have been in vain.  Not by a long shot.

In the last 11 weeks, I have formed the habits necessary to sustain a healthy, happy life.  Even better is having been able to help others do the same.  What prize could be better than that??

2 weeks from today I will be posting my last transformation contest update……  The countdown has begun…..



Day 76 – Another Super Short Post??

This morning I got in a great lifting session.  My legs were feeling a bit more fatigued than normal so I did an Upper Body session that was very similar to Monday’s.

Ok, this is a really short post but I have some things to do this evening. I’ll be back in the morning with a weigh-in update.  And hopefully we won’t have the 6+ inches of snow in the weather forecast when I wake up!!

Day 75 – Something Doesn’t Look Right

Today is an off day from weight lifting.  I do have a Tabata session & some ab/core work to get in after this post.

Speaking of this post, it is going to be another short one.  I have a busy evening planned so I am going to keep this one short & sweet.

In the meantime, here’s a picture that gave me a good laugh:



Couple of observations here:

  • I’m not a big fan of bench dips; I’ve hurt my shoulder doing them in the past.  The last time I did bench dips was a few years ago during a P90X session.  I hurt my right shoulder at that time.  I haven’t done them since & I’ve managed to keep my right shoulder relatively pain-free.
  • I’m also not the biggest fan of having another dude in my lap.  It’s ok if that’s your thing, I’m not here to judge anyone.  But why not get a weighted vest &/or have someone place a 45 pound plate on your thighs?
  • I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying: “Dude, would you sit on my lap while I do some bench dips?”.  Talk about putting your spotter in an awkward position.  In more than one way, too!

Anyway, I thought you might get a laugh out of the picture.  I know I did!

Day 74 – A Quick Update

Today, I completed Session C of the Beginner Program from Jason Ferruggia’s “Muscle Gaining Secrets 2.0″ program.  This is an Upper Body Dominant weight training session.

Switched out a couple of exercises (from last session) this session just for a change:

  • Flat Barbell Bench Presses instead of Incline Barbell Bench Press
  • Lumberjack Presses instead of Military Presses
  • Barbell Curls instead of Dumbbell Hammer Curls
  • Inverted Bodyweight Rows (went with an Overhand Grip instead of an Underhand Grip)

I have some things to take care of so I am going to cut this post a little bit short.  In the meantime, enjoy the following picture:



I’m sure there is a perfectly good explanation for this but it made me laugh.  I mean, the baby can’t walk so the stroller makes sense.  But pushing it with a Segway?  I just don’t get it.  I’m not being judgmental here.  I’m just a bit dumbfounded, that’s all.

Walking & pushing the stroller just seems easier, safer & more natural than the alternative presented above.


Day 73 – Dreams Are What Life Is Made Of

Today is an off day from weight lifting.  I will be getting in some Tabata style cardio/ab work once I finish up this post though.

Since I don’t have much more in the way of fitness to discuss, I thought I would share the following quote:

“Dreams don’t have deadlines. If you don’t give up on them, they won’t give up on you.”

I’m not sure where I heard &/or read this quote but it has stuck with me for a long time.  It is a very simple quote yet very profound.

The next time you get down & begin to wonder if your dreams will ever come true, remember that quote.

Notice that the quote doesn’t say it will always be easy & that it will happen overnight.

You’re going to have to put forth some effort.  Sometimes the effort will feel as if it has been in vain.  The thing is, you never know what kind of ripple effect your current efforts will have on your future results.

I will confess that there have been a few instances over the last 73 days where I have questioned my participation in this body transformation contest.  Here are a few examples:

  • Recently, I have plateaued in relation to gaining muscle.  That is a bit disheartening considering the effort I am putting forth in & out of the weight room.
  • I’ve spent numerous hours blogging.  But, I currently serve a relatively small audience.  Are they even getting anything positive from my efforts?
  • The time I spend in the weight room & online takes away from time I could be spending with my family.  Is it worth it?

These are a few examples of some of the things I’ve tossed around in my mind over the last few months.  Despite the negativity that these thoughts can conjure up, I refuse to let them poison my mind.  I definitely refuse to quit on my dreams.

I have a #1 fitness goal that I keep private.  Very few people know what this goal is.  I am not ashamed to share this goal but I tend to keep this one close to the vest.  Realistically speaking, it is probably going to take me many more months (maybe even a few years) to see this goal become my reality.

Is that the most appealing prospect?  Nope.  Does the task seem daunting at times?  Yes!  Do I ever think maybe I’m crazy for chasing this dream??  Absolutely.  Would it be easier to just ignore the desire & go about things as if the goal didn’t exist.  You bet it would be.

Despite all of those points, there is NO WAY I will give up on this dream.  Not now.  Each day I take a step closer to seeing my dream become a reality.

That’s what I desire for you.  That each day you take a step closer to seeing your dreams become reality.  That you keep going, even when the world seems like it is out to get you.  That you become the person you see when you daydream.

You can do it, if you put your mind to it.  You are all you need.  Yes, you.


Day 72 – Knowing When To Back Off

Today, I completed Session B of the Beginner Program from Jason Ferruggia’s “Muscle Gaining Secrets 2.0″ program.  This session was a Lower Body dominant routine.

For some reason, I just didn’t have it today in the weight room.  Not much after I completed my general warm-up, I could tell that something was off.  After my first warm-up set of Barbell Back Squats, I definitely knew something wasn’t quite right.

My inner thighs/groin area felt really, really tight.  I did some stretching which seemed to help.  Until I did my second warm-up set.  Tight, tight, tight!!  A little more stretching should do the trick.

After a few minutes worth of stretching, I moved on to the first working set of squats.  They were better than the warm up sets.  Maybe I’ll be ok?

After a little more stretching & another working set of squats, it was apparent that my legs were going to be stubborn today.  My inner thigh was starting to get tight again.

I decided at that point to forgo the remaining 3 sets of squats.  At one point in time, I would have continued on with squats.  But not today.  I learned a valuable lesson last fall when it comes to “toughing it out”.

It was the last Saturday of September 2012 when I learned my lesson.  I was completing the last few sets of Dumbbell Shoulder Presses when I felt a little pinch on the left side of my mid/lower back.

It hurt but not enough that I felt the need to stop lifting.  I finished up the set & racked the dumbbells.  After my rest period, I picked the dumbbells up & got into starting position.

Uh-oh, something’s not right.  I feel a tightness in the left lat area that wasn’t there before.  But I complete the set anyway.  I racked the weights, rested & then got into position for my last set of presses for the day.

Now my left lat was REALLY barking.  It was as if someone was jamming something between my ribs.  Did I stop?  Of course not!  I pushed through the pain & completed the session.

I did my post exercise stretching, showered & everything felt fine.  Until the next day.  That’s when I discovered I had torn a bit of cartilage between my ribs.  It’s what happens when you lift a little heavier than you should & you use bad form as a result.  The problem was made worse when I didn’t stop after the first sign of real trouble.

It cost me the first full 2 weeks of October in the weight room.  Actually closer to 4 weeks when you consider that the last 2 weeks of October I was still nursing the injury.  My lifting sessions over that 2 week span were noting short of blah.

The timing couldn’t have been worse.  October was the last month I spent with my former trainer.  I basically cost myself that last month because I was too stubborn to have backed off when I knew I should have.

There’s a difference between pain & injury.  The pain I experienced today was quickly moving into the injury department if I wasn’t careful.  So today when things didn’t feel right, I moved on to the Deadlift portion of the session.

Deadlifts went better than squats.  Thankfully I was able to complete all 4 sets with no leg issues.

I wrapped up the lifting portion of the session with Barbell Curls:

After the last set of curls, I completed two, four-minute “Tabata” style jump rope segments.  20 seconds of fast-paced jumping followed by 10 seconds of rest.  By fast-paced, I mean I was jumping as fast as I possibly could.

In 4 minutes, I was able to complete 8 of these 20 second work/10 second rest cycles.  I rested for minute & then did another 4 minute circuit.  Over the coming weeks, I will most likely stack another 2 or 3 cycles in during each Tabata session.

Even though the beginning of the session started off poorly, I was able to finish up strong.  By listening to my body, I was able to avoid injury.  Sure, I left a little bit on the table but I was able to walk away from the session in tact.  More importantly, I will be able to complete my next scheduled lifting session as a result.

Day 71 – The Treasure Map For Your Mind

Today, I completed Session A of the Beginner Program from Jason Ferruggia’s “Muscle Gaining Secrets 2.0″ program.

This was my second time performing this particular lifting session.  As with last week, I found this session to be a challenge!

When compared to last week, I was able to increase my rep count for each exercise, each set.  Progress baby, progress!

Say what you will about bodyweight exercises but I find them to be an excellent addition to Session A of the Beginner Program.  Inverted Bodyweight Rows & Pull Ups absolutely kicked the crap out of me today!

Thankfully the body weight exercises were at the tail end of the lifting session.  Had they been at the beginning of the session I doubt I would have had much left in the tank by the time they were done.

I don’t have much more to add for today.  Except for this:



Someday soon, I will be driving a Camaro that looks like this.  Not sure how it will come to pass but I have faith that it will.  This is one of the things I have on my dream board.

Don’t have a dream board?  Not sure what one is?

A dream board is simply a collage of images of the things you desire, the places you wish to visit, words that empower you, etc.  In essence, your dream board is a collection of all the things that drive you.  It should be somewhere that is visible & should be looked at multiple times per day.

My dream board has a lot of different things on it:

  • The Camaro pictured above
  • Tropical & mountainous settings
  • Golf courses
  • Guitars & amps
  • Money!
  • Plenty of other good stuff

In terms of fitness, I have a picture of the body I would be most happy residing within.  Will I end up looking exactly like the guy in the picture?  Probably not.  We are different individuals.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t get as close to that body as possible.  His body was good enough to land him the cover of a Men’s Health magazine so why not aim high?  Who knows, maybe I will look even better once all is said & done?  How high will that take me?

What’s on your dream board?  What kind of dream body is out there for you to strive to look like??  Find it, put it on your board & go about making your reality!!

Today’s Lifting Session Track Listing:

  • The Wanton Song – Led Zeppelin
  • Mr. Tinkertrain – Ozzy Osbourne
  • The Distance – Cake
  • Where Eagles Dare – Iron Maiden
  • One – Metallica
  • The Outsider – A Perfect Circle
  • Find that Soul – Volbeat
  • Blue Blood Blues – The Dead Weather
  • Gratitude – The Beastie Boys
  • Freewill – Rush